White firefighter gets victory in demand from black firefighter group
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A judge has ruled that a fraternal organization of black firefighters will have to turn over certain internal documents to a white firefighter who is suing the city, alleging he suffered a backlash in 2017 when he complained that a black colleague who is a member of the group had harassed him by threatening to drop a bomb on him.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Monica Bachner released her decision Monday in the lawsuit of firefighter James Sharlein in Los Angeles Superior Court, which alleges discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and that some of the alleged misconduct were racially motivated.
Firefighter Ta’Ana Mitchell is also named as an accused.
Last June, Sharlein’s lawyers asked the black firefighting group, the Stentorians, for minutes of the group’s meetings from 2010 to the present day as well as the identities of the organization’s members and leaders during that same period.
In his decision, Bachner ordered the organization to turn over minutes of Stentorian meetings, every group charter, every article of incorporation and every mission statement, all from 2010 to the present. The custodian of the group’s records was also ordered to appear for a deposition by Sharlein’s attorneys.
Sharlein’s claims in eight other areas were denied, including the identity of Stentorians members, officers and directors.
“The court finds that (the) stentorians raised meritorious objections to the remaining production categories,” Bachner wrote, calling the claims “overbroad” and “irrelevant.”
In an affidavit, Stentorian chairman Gerald Durant said Sharlein’s case against the city had nothing to do with the group and called the document requests “an attempt to infiltrate our organization without no legal basis for doing so”.
The Stentorians are a charity independent of the LAFD, Durant explains.
In their court documents, the Stentorians say the organization was founded to “address the challenges of discrimination and segregation in the LAFD” and that more than 500 men and women are members.
“The Stentorians supported Ms. Mitchell because she is a member of an organization that seeks to promote equality and fairness across the fire service,” the group said.
Sharlein was working at Fire Station 50 when Mitchell was assigned there in December 2017 as a trainee firefighter, according to her complaint filed in December 2018. That month, she allegedly began making inappropriate remarks about him, including ” I wanted to drop a bombshell on Sharlein’ and ‘If he was a girl, I would have beat his (epithet)’, both of which were said to have been done in the presence of the complainant and an LAFD supervisor.
Mitchell also said she wanted to punch Sharlein in the face and that her brother, who was recently released from prison, wanted to beat him, according to the complaint.
Mitchell told black members of the LAFD staff that the plaintiff was harassing her, an allegation she knew to be false, according to the suit.
In her own affidavit, Sharlein says she filed a report with the LAPD in June 2018 regarding Mitchell’s alleged behavior.
‘I filed this criminal complaint because I believed Mitchell had committed several criminal acts, including crimes involving bomb threats, threatening to blow up a fire station, threatening to blow me up…’ said Sharlein
In a letter to then-LAFD fire chief Ralph Terrazas, a copy of which is included in her statement, Sharlein says Mitchell was interviewed by a television news station and said she was a victim. of “systemic racism and sexism” within the LAFD. .
“Why does she say these things she knows aren’t true?” Sharlein asks. “More importantly, why is she allowed to continue to harass and make false and misleading statements?”
LAFD management knew or should have known of Mitchell’s alleged misconduct, but failed to arrest her even after Sharlein complained, the lawsuit alleges.
Instead of helping Sharlein, LAFD management denied him promotions to privileged positions and transferred him to less favorable and “potentially more dangerous” workplaces, according to the lawsuit.
Sharlein also alleges that he was denied the opportunity to earn overtime, that he was falsely accused of spreading gossip and rumors about another firefighter, and that he was subjected to inappropriate investigations.
A ‘substantial motivating reason’ for the city and the LAFD to subject Sharlein to unfavorable terms of employment was her race and gender, according to the suit.